BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Tuesday, the Maryland State Board of Education had their first full in-person meeting in several months.

During the meeting, education officials expressed that one of their top priorities is to safely re-open schools for five days a week this fall.

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The new state superintendent of schools, Dr. Mohammed Choudhury talked about the $1.3 billion the federal government sent to Maryland public schools. Schools will have a lot of freedom on how they spend that money and that could include upgrades for better ventilation systems.

“Eighty percent of the funds they have discretionary autonomy over it and how they want to use it to meet their local needs. Twenty percent of the funds need to go to address learning loss,” says Choudhury.

State education leaders revealed since the start of the pandemic, they received 12,138 correspondence which includes letters and emails. Assistant state superintendent, Mary Gables said many of the letters and emails came from parents and teachers.

“That’s not surprising, parents were very concerned, they were asking us about what their state policies were, but mostly about local systems,” says Gables.

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When schools open this fall, thousands of students will be unvaccinated and that’s because kids under 12 aren’t allowed to get the vaccine at this point.

“We are still trying to look and see how are we going to do it, how is the state handling it, what are the protocols that they are putting in place,” says Tracy Magino, who’s been waiting for additional guidance from school officials.

COVID-19 cases could surge this fall and that’s a concern for families who will be sending kids out for the first time in more than a year.

“I do think it’s a good idea to get them back into school, but safely of course,” one man told WJZ.

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At Tuesday’s meeting, an advocate for students with disabilities told the board that virtual learning may be better for some students, and that option should always be available.

Ava-joye Burnett